My last post talked about my progress after one year on my fat loss & fitness plan. One year is a long time, especially for me. I started gaining weight in my early twenties and I have been overweight for around 12 years. I don’t know how many times I tried to lose some weight but it was many. I tried for a while, lost a few pounds, gave up, put a few pounds back on; the same old cycle repeated by a great many people I’m sure.
My progress over this last year wasn’t as good as I would have liked but it was persistent, week after week and month after month. I never once “fell of the bandwagon”, though I did jump off it a few times but with every intention to jump back on it once I was done doing whatever it was. A good example is my recent holiday. I ate a heck of a lot of food and I didn’t do any exercise at all. I drank wine or beer with almost every meal, loaded up on French bread, pate, chocolate, cheese, everything and anything that was on offer! Yet never once did I think “oh well I’ve blown it now, may as well give up”. I knew I would gain weight, and I did – five pounds, but when I got back holiday I just got straight back on plan. In fact the morning of my last day on holiday was spent doing my food plan for the following week.
So what was different this time? I’ve thought long and hard about it in the hope that I can figure out the key elements that led to this persistence so that I may apply it to other areas of my life, and maybe even help you do the same.
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1) I Wanted it BAAAAAADDDDD
What is really behind persistence of any kind? Motivation. And where does motivation come from? From wanting something. If you want something bad enough, you’ll do whatever it takes to get it. Before starting Uni I lost some weight (I talk about that a little further down) and I dropped a clothes size, bought myself some new clothes and felt quite good about myself. As soon as I started feeling good about myself the desire to lose more fat dwindled so it gradually piled back on.I figured that if I was going to keep this up I was going to have to want it badly so I put a lot of mental effort into making myself really want to lose that fat and get fit. I wrote down all the reasons why I wanted to get slimmer and thinner, I thought about all the things I would do if I felt better about myself and so on. I thought about this day in, day out. Sometimes I wanted it so badly that it hurt.
2) I Used Visualizations
Partly a spin-off from number one… As a tool to help kindle that burning desire I used vizualisations to help me.I developed scenarios, fantasies really, about situations in my future and saw myself as I wanted to be. For example, one of them was a day out at the beach with my family and some friends. I saw exactly how my body looked, exactly what I was wearing and so on. I had about five of these scenarios and I’d make a point of running through them in my mind over and over.I don’t really use them now as I simply don’t need to – the habits have been formed now.
3) I Dumped the Excuses
For as long as I can remember I’ve had no shortage of excuses for my weight, my food habits, and my lack of exercise. When I started on my plan I dumped the lot of them. I made the decision that I would no longer tolerate excuses. And as it turns out, they were just excuses because over the year many of the circumstances that I used as excuses cropped up and I dealt with them this time. Here’s a few examples:
- “My schedule is too erratic, so there’s no point trying to begin an exercise routine” – I’m a routine-aholic (yes, I just made that up!) I like routine because it allows me to plan the routine and planning allows me to tweak my plan to perfection. While I was at Uni my schedule would indeed change every few weeks so this became my biggest excuse. It was crap of course because I had exercise facilities available to me both at home and on campus.
- “I don’t have the time” – What a classic that one is! I’ve always used that one. The funny thing is, once I started work (which is when I started my plan) I found that I had a lot less time than before and I immediately regretted not spending my time more wisely while I had it. Yet despite this illusion of lack of time (everybody has exactly the same amount of time as anyone else – we make the time for something or we don’t) I now exercise daily as well as spending many hours in the kitchen every week preparing food.
Those were my two biggest excuses. What are yours? Who are you trying to kid?
4) I Wanted to Start My Job Right
The beginning of my plan coincided with the start of my new job. When you go into a new job the people there know nothing about you so your behavior in the first few days can make a lasting impression. I decided right away that from day one I would make it clear that I went to the gym every day at lunchtimes and I brought food into work. I felt very awkward at first because everybody else had a ritual of going together to the sandwich shop for lunch and they either stayed in the office or all went down the pub. I on the other hand brought in several meals and ate them at weird times. However, I did indeed establish this as a habit and now everybody knows me and I get people all the time at work coming to me for diet and exercise advice.
Now if I’m having a bad day and I’m seen eating a cake or chocolate or something they’ll all pick up on it straight away. That’s much better than feeling peer pressure from your work colleagues to eat unhealthily because they do. I don’t get that.
5) I Believed I Could Lose the Fat Because I Had Lost Some Before
About 5 years ago I joined a slimming club and lost nearly two stones. In actual fact my lowest weight was the weight I am this week! However, that was done with diet alone. I did no exercise, I was still unfit and very flabby. I look better now than I did then. Still, I did lose the bulk of the fat and I became a consultant for the club, and ran my own class for a few months before going to Uni.I figured if I could lose fat with no exercise and with a crappy diet (which it was), then I could certainly lose it with a proper exercise and nutrition plan.
6) I Began to See Fat Loss as a Numbers Game
Calories in v calories out. Yes of course it’s not that simple but that’s the essence of it. Calculating the numbers is the easy bit, eating and exercising the right amount of numbers is the hard bit. However, once I re-read my Burn the Fat book (I really must write a review of that soon!) I started to realize that it all boiled down to three habits:
- Eating the right food
- Cardiovascular exercise
- Weight training
If I could get myself to form the habit of incorporating these three things into my life then I could tweak the numbers as I go and eventually I’d get it right. I’ve been tweaking all year and I think I always will. Many people start out and get the numbers wrong so they give up.
First and foremost, you have to want it. Whatever it is you need to be persistent with starts in the mind. You also have to believe in yourself – another mind game. Ask yourself the question “why can I do this?” and you’ll come up with answers. If you are negative and start thinking about your past failures you’ll just get more of the same. Focus on what you want, not what you don’t want.
All this thinking is great but after that it’s action that counts. Dreams and goals don’t mean squat if they stay locked up in your mind and are never acted upon. Figure out what you have to do, boil it down to the essentials and in particular, look for habits. Speaker and author Jim Rohn says that “Failure is a few small errors in judgement, repeated every day. Success is a few small disciplines repeated every day.” Find those disciplines and make them into habits.
When the going gets tough go back to the mind games. Re-evaluate why you want it and what it’s going to give you. Make sure you feel the emotions and let them penetrate into your soul. If what you are doing isn’t working for you, look at the numbers. Are you exercising enough? Eating too much? Tom Venuto who wrote the Burn the Fat book says that usually when it’s not working you just have to work that bit harder. That isn’t always the case but many times it is!
Think. Act. Repeat.
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